Theosophical University Press Online Edition
— Closing address at the European Convention of the T. S., London, August 2-3, 1936.
We come to the last moments of these happy two days together, and I offer you my sincere regrets for your sake that Brother Oosterink [Chairman, Committee of National Presidents of the European Sections, T. S.] is unable to be here to speak to you tonight; but the subject that you would have heard him discuss I shall try to say a few words upon: "The Place of Devotion in the Life of Discipleship."
This subject immediately calls to my mind that most inspiring passage in The Secret Doctrine, concerning the origin of devotion in human hearts; and if you will refer to it in the first volume (p. 210), you will find the interesting statement that devotion actually arose in human breasts because of the age-old and eternal memory that we all have, that we owe our spiritual origin to those Lords of Wisdom who actually infused into us the spark of self-consciousness. If we carry that thought forward when we think of the inspired doctrine of the lighting up of Manas by the Manasaputras in the Third Root Race, and remember the marvelous body of doctrine associated with that event; and reflect that all men — savages and educated men, high and low and of all races — have this feeling, this yearning of devotion to some Being, stirring in the depths of their consciousness, the longing to find that Teacher, that Savior, however it may be formulated or expressed, we realize that it all comes from that far-off, Divine event which gave us birth to ourselves, and that we, in the higher parts of our being, are actually those Manasaputras ourselves. So we see the true origin of devotion as welling up from the Divine part of our own being, and yet as indissolubly associated with our devotion to those ancient Teachers of the Race that are symbolized for us under the name of the Great Lodge — the Brotherhood of living men who, Theosophy and the message of H. P. B. have taught us, actually exist in this world today.
The second thought that occurred to me was that wonderful and beautifully suggestive passage in Letters That Have Helped Me, so full of beautiful thought; and I would suggest to any of you who are perhaps less acquainted with Theosophical literature, and who do not possess that book, immediately to obtain it. It is the short passage that you will find on pages 66-7 in regard to what he describes as the Guru-parampara Chain. There we have another aspect of the origin of Devotion. I am going to read you the passage:
The relation of Guru and Chela is nothing if it is not a spiritual one. Whatever is merely outward, or formal, as the relation established by mere asking and acceptance, is not spiritual, but formal, and is that which arises between teacher and pupil. Yet even this latter is not in my way despicable, because the teacher stands to his pupil, in so far forth as the relation permits, in the same way as the Guru to his Chela. . . .
So from earliest times, among all but the modern western people, the teacher was given great reverence by the pupil, and the latter was taught from youth to look upon his preceptor as only second to his father and mother in dignity. It was among these people a great sin, a thing that did one actual harm in his moral being, to be disrespectful to his teacher even in thought. The reason for this lay then, and no less to-day does also lie, in the fact that a long chain of influences extends from the highest spiritual guide who may belong to any man, down through vast numbers of spiritual chiefs, ending at last even in the mere teacher of our youth. Or, to restate it in modern reversion of thought, a chain extends up from our teacher or preceptors to the highest spiritual chief in whose ray or descending line one may happen to be. And it makes no difference whatever, in, this occult relation, that, neither pupil nor final guide may be aware, or admit, that this is the case.
That means surely that all the world has the opportunity of participating in this marvelous fount of the occult Universe, whether they know it or not.
Thus it happens that the child who holds his teacher in reverence and diligently applies himself accordingly with faith, does no violence to this intangible but mighty chain, and is benefited accordingly, whether he knows it or not. Nor again does it matter that a child has a teacher who evidently gives him a bad system. This is his Karma, and by his reverent and diligent attitude he works it out, and transcends erstwhile that teacher.
This chain of influence is called the Guruparampara chain.
The Guru is the guide or readjuster, and may not always combine the function of teacher with it.
There is a world of vital thought in that idea, and this leads me to the next thought that naturally arises out of it: how are we to find these Teachers — to come in contact with them? Is it possible for us to do so? I would venture to suggest one or two ideas that I personally believe in. If we study the evidence in our literature, in The Mahatma Letters and in many parts of H. P. B.'s teaching, and so on, we must come to the realization, if we are really honest with ourselves, that these Beings have a high probability of existence; and still we may be without what might be called internal evidence that they do exist as living men. We may not have had the privilege of coming in contact with anybody who is in the position of being able to say he knows because he has experience.
What are we as individuals to do in order to gain this inner certainty for ourselves? — which brings us back to this question of devotion and its place in our spiritual lives — for has not the statement been made that the Masters are a symbol collectively of the Higher Self; and will you not find, if you turn to Light on the Path, that the way to gain some understanding of what is meant by the Masters of Wisdom, by the great Teachers of the Race, by the Mahatmas, is to fit ourselves to be instruments in their hands? — for that is the only condition wherefrom we may enter into any kind of relationship with these Teachers. If we can find the way to become instruments in their hands, if we would make our voice heard, and make it possible to impress our thoughts upon their akasa, then we must learn that that voice of ours will not be heard unless it is the voice of the Higher part of our being; and therefore we have to learn to rise up enough into the higher realms of our inner being, so that with the voice of the Higher Self we can make our call upon the Law. Then comes the response from "the Keepers of the Sacred Light," as Master K. H. phrases it in The Mahatma Letters. May I read to you the passage from Letter LXIV, page 358, where Master K. H. deals with one of these problems:
Ah, how long shall the mysteries of chelaship overpower and lead astray from the path of truth the wise and perspicacious, as much as the foolish and the credulous! How few of the many pilgrims who have to start without chart or compass on that shoreless Ocean of Occultism reach the wished for land. Believe me, faithful friend, that nothing short of full confidence in us, in our good motives if not in our wisdom, in our foresight, if not omniscience — which is not to be found on this earth — can help one to cross over from one's land of dream and fiction to our Truth land, the region of stern reality and fact. Otherwise the ocean will prove shoreless indeed; its waves will carry one no longer on waters of hope, but will turn every ripple into doubt and suspicion; and bitter shall they prove to him who starts on that dismal, tossing sea of the Unknown, with a prejudiced mind!
Another thought occurred to me: if we seek to become instruments in Their hands, then once we have recognised by our own desperate need, the need that others must have (because we all more or less are in the same boat), our first and most obvious duty calls forth our effort to relieve the need that we know exists in the hearts of others. This leads us to take the first step, and, having the literature in our hands as part of our tools of work, this course presents itself to each one of us. The way is pointed out in The Mahatma Letters very clearly, but it is useless for us to sit still in our Lodge room and watch other people doing the work. For each of us has the responsibility to find that creative piece of work which touches causes; and by that I mean that we shall seriously consider the problem as to what any one of us can do that will be a real, creative piece of work. We can all do it in some way or another in the circumstances in which we are placed; and it is that kind of effort, combined with the aspiration that I was trying to express to you in relation to the Higher Self and its connexion with the Masters: it is this kind of effort that will bring us the internal evidence that They do exist.
Thus having become instruments — dedicated instruments — in Their hands, all here who have tried the experiment will agree and know that the greatest happiness I suppose that any Theosophist has is when, being self-forgetful, he is able to give to others the message of Theosophy, however haltingly or however beautifully the ideas are expressed; for there we find an inexhaustible stream of happiness resulting from that kind of work in which we are all engaged. Contrariwise, if through our own fault we are not living to our highest, if we in any way forfeit the capacity, or lose the opportunity, of acting in that way as instruments, then the corresponding pain and suffering can be very great.
Again I want to remind you of that passage that I have thought of so many times in these last two days, that you will find in Light on the Path, that in the life of the disciple he never knows until the entrance to the Pathway is found at what moment he will discover and hear the voice of the Beloved in the hearts of those around him. It seemed to me such a marvelous expression of just that discovery that we have witnessed in these two days of the Convention: we have heard the voice of the Beloved speaking to us in the thoughts and words that have been so spontaneously uttered by all who have contributed here either as speakers or by their presence and sympathy. It is the voice of the Spirit that has sounded through our ranks, and we are all deeply sensible of it.
A last thought I want to put to you. I am reminded of that wonderful story of one of the Bhikkus of the Buddha — one of those who was called upon to preach the doctrine, and his situation was likened to a man who was digging a well for water in the desert, because the Bhikku complained that he did not get the response from his hearers that he thought the teachings of Buddhism should evoke from his congregation, or from what we should call the public. He had a feeling that they were not interested; and the Buddha drew his attention to the man who was digging the well in the desert, and asked the Bhikku what he would do if, having dug to a great depth, as he thought, he did not find water. He answered that he must dig deeper. Being applied to the experience of the Bhikku, it simply meant that if he did not get the response from the hearts of his hearers, then he had not dug deep enough into his own spiritual nature, and therefore he had to dig deeper and deeper, and then would come the response from the hearts of his hearers.
Now is it not just to that great work that we Theosophists are dedicated — dedicated to the bringing forth of the spiritual and higher nature in the lives of all mankind? To bring forth the spiritual qualities in all men — that is our great work!
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So Brothers, with full hearts we will just enter upon a moment or two of silence, and we will close with the Invocation.
The subject of the Creative Power of Thought is intimately related with the first principle in which our Theosophical Movement is rooted. You cannot consider the dynamic and creative effects of the thinking power of the human mind without immediately being struck by the fact that all nations and all men are in reality interconnected to such an extent that they are affected morally and physically by the thoughts and actions of each other. In other words, if there is a nation which is bent upon a vicious, destructive, downward and degenerate course, that nation will inevitably poison the very thought atmosphere of this Globe; and then by means of the inner constitution of the planet upon which we live, there is conveyed to all other nations of the earth that main current of thought and destructive energy that such a nation — or if we choose to make the application, such an individual — chooses to generate.
If that is true, there is fortunately a more cheerful side to the picture, and that is, that just as we are affected morally and physically to our detriment if we are negative and weak enough to be so affected, so also, even unconsciously and against our will, we benefit by those nations and men of goodwill, those individuals of high spiritual nature, who are pouring forth their beneficent thought upon the world; and because of the inescapable unity in which we are all rooted, it benefits with its creative power in the same way that the other, destructive kind of energy pulls the whole fabric of universal life downward — or shall I say retards it somewhat in its upward progress.
This is a very fundamental thought, as I see it, from which to commence our whole study of the subject. In that rather famous book called The Idyll of the White Lotus, there are stated three great Truths, and one of them is to the effect that man has it in his own hands to create his own weal or woe, his own future life and future destiny; and it is done without any doubt at all by means of the dynamic, creative force of his own desire, his aspirations, his thought, and his will. These are the tools which the Theosophist, the occultist, the disciple, the Mahatma, and the man of the world, have at their disposal.
The Theosophical philosophy, therefore, at the very outset of our study ennobles man, and shows him that he has within a godlike and creative power to make for himself the very conditions for which his heart most yearns, most secretly aspires towards. We have all, I have no doubt, tried to experiment with these laws in greater or less degree, in an endeavor to apply them to ourselves. But as a practical example: what should we do if we find ourselves surrounded by conditions we do not want? First of all it is necessary to create the clear mental picture of that which you individually want to achieve, the particular objective that you have set yourself; and immediately very powerful forces are set in motion, for which you individually have a great responsibility. Everything that we desire, especially when the desire is very strong, immediately sets up a current along magnetic lines of force to those layers of space which contain that which we seek; thus creating lines of magnetic attraction with other human beings or spiritual entities who have the capacity to bring to it that which we have set our minds upon. Directly you begin to desire a thing, immediately you are beginning to create for yourself opportunity, and the opportunity will come inevitably to work out that which you yourself, for good or ill, have set your creative forces in motion to bring about. Therefore is it necessary to emphasize the tremendous importance of submitting every such determination, aspiration, desire, to the dictates of the Higher Self in each one of us, to the Silent Witness of all our endeavors. For otherwise, if we are not willing to take the position that was taken two thousand years ago by those who created for us the New Testament; if we have not the point of view "Not my will but Thine," then we may risk to create something of a personal effect or result which will hang around our necks like mill-stones: for the forces that we set in motion are real — they will bring to us that which we want them to bring. Fix your mind, and your will, and your desire to bring evil to another, and you will be destroyed yourself by the reaction that such kind of work brings about.
These forces — we are talking about occultism — are creative and destructive: hence the very thorough drilling that those who study the genuine teachings of Theosophy receive in the moral and ethical basis of the Theosophical philosophy. For if that is not rooted in the student's and aspirant's mind, it is more than likely he will make an application of these laws, when he begins to understand them, that will not only wreck or bring evil (and untold evil) to others with whom he is associated, but still more will he wreck himself.
Now a word as to the means by which the thoughts of other individuals and other nations affect us. It is by means of that which Eliphas Levi called the Astral Light, that part of the Cosmic Ether which is actually the lowest part of that universal Cosmic principle which in the East they call Akasa. That astral light interpenetrates our whole Globe just as it does every other planet in the Solar system. It is imponderable, tenuous, and contains the picture, the impress, the record, and therefore the memory, of every thought and every act that has ever been performed on this Globe. It is because thought travels, that when we emit or permit to pass through our minds a thought, which is a living intelligence, a thing full of life, we are setting in motion a force which goes to the farthest confines of space. Think of all the creative ideas for good along constructive and healthy lines: great inventions, wonderful ideas dreamed by inventors, by poets, by Adepts, by Mahatmas, which are stored up as it were in the Akasa, in the Astral Light, waiting for that man or woman who is high-minded enough to give them expression in action. This is the explanation why, when an inventive mind is concentrated upon a particular problem, the complete solution will often come into his mind, although he has not worked out all the logical steps to the solution that is eventually arrived at. In other words it is possible, if we learn how to do it, to call to our aid the thoughts of the past, and those of the mighty spiritual thinkers of our own era, to help us, to encourage us, in any worthy purpose that we may have, or may be engaged upon. Conversely, to the extent that we are living under the control of the sense life, of the personality, of negative states of mind and thought — to that extent we are calling to — I won't say our aid, but we are attracting, setting in motion, a reinforcement of the very negative, sensual, destructive or evil states of mind in which we may be at any moment of time.
So what does it amount to? It amounts to this: since our mind and consciousness are always busy with something, even when we are almost in a state of inertia, there is some thought, some idea, some aspiration, and some desire, coloring the whole kama-manasic consciousness. Whatever it is that is in our mind is being reinforced, strengthened, by all past thinking along the same line that is stored in the astral light. See how important this is. Without any volition on our part, if we are living at a consistently low level we are inviting all the same forces of a low level to strengthen us in that negative and weak attitude that we are adopting. See, therefore, what tremendous powers and implication and hope the spreading of the Theosophical philosophy and teaching has for mankind. Why? Because you are giving them something in the way of food for their minds that lets the whole Inner Soul of the man rise and take in its comprehension the vast sweep of the Universal Mind, letting in the sunlight of the spiritual life, giving it food, attracting the human soul and the human mind upward.
Directly you link to these teachings on the Creative Power of Thought the doctrine of Karma, and the doctrine of Reincarnation, you begin to see where we are being led: what happens to a man before birth, and what happens to him after death. What he believes about those two stages — ante-natal and after-death — will necessarily govern his thinking here and now. Therefore, these great subjects which have occupied the greatest minds and intellects that the world has ever known, and on which we have a very rich collection of teaching, are necessarily of the greatest importance, just because they do influence our thought, and therefore our action.
There is a very telling page in William Q. Judge's Epitome of Theosophy, which deals with the mechanism by which thought really works, and it shows how, if we fix our mind in disapproval or judgment upon another human being, we attract to ourselves elemental entities of the very nature of the fault that we are condemning, and then we proceed to build into ourselves the very condition that we wish to eradicate in somebody else; and so the fault goes backwards and forwards, intensifying the characteristics in both. The obligation and the remedy are obvious in this case. Exactly the reverse is true if we dwell upon thoughts of beautiful qualities that we would like to see, and do see around us in many cases; for then we are strengthening by our approval, and our goodwill, these characteristics in ourselves and others.
I would like, in connexion with this subject of thought, just to touch very briefly upon the relation of the Theosophical classification of man's constitution, with that of modern psychology. What is the connexion between the conscious mind of the modern psychologist and the Theosophical classification? What is meant by the modern psychologist's subjective mind, and where does it fit into the scheme of occult science?
I venture to suggest that the objective, or conscious mind of the modern psychologist is the lower manas, which is responsible for our ordinary every-day objective thinking; but the unconscious or subjective mind is another matter. The psychologists mix up, from lack of knowledge, the two parts of the mind — the Spiritual, that which inheres in Buddhi: that power of direct cognition and discrimination: the higher part of man; and the force inherent in what we may term the instinctive mind, the mind that is connected with kama-manas. We share this instinctive mind with all kingdoms of nature below us, and in particular the animal kingdom. Here we have nascent thought in the higher exemplars of the animal kingdom; and in that instinctive mind are many of the characteristics that modern psychologists attribute to the subjective mind. But they leave out of account, or are unable to account for, the source of all those higher, nobler ideas of the human mind, which really come from the Divine part of his nature, and which they just classify as the unconscious. These things are very important for us because the Theosophical classification gives a clue as to what we must do in order to use our mental and creative faculties to the highest end.
There is one aspect of this problem that is particularly interesting and very helpful. I have no doubt that many of us have at times been — afflicted, shall I say, with a problem which seems at times beyond our individual capacity to solve: a problem of such difficulty that the advantages and disadvantages of each course are almost equally balanced; and the mind becomes weary, the capacity to think and to solve apparently so inefficient that the person is in a very difficult position. It happens every day for many people. If we apply the laws that are behind this practical application of occult and scientific principles, it is quite possible to relegate the solution of the problem to the right department of the mind, and cease to worry. What do you think is the origin of the useful old practice of not making a decision until you have slept on it, until you have given time for this higher part of what the psychologist calls the Unconscious, or subjective mind, to get to work? It is capable of providing the solution of any problem. Read what H. P. B. has to say in Isis Unveiled about the power of the Adept to rise into the higher consciousness, and know all that ever was, is, or can be known about any subject in the Universe. Why? Simply because the higher part of us, the Divine part of us, is actually omniscient: therefore all we have to do is to find the means of opening ourselves to the inflow of this knowledge — and it can be done by asking for it, by aspiring towards it, by opening our minds to it, by presenting the problem in a good and orderly fashion, and leaving it to that higher part of the mind to find the solution; and if you have a sufficiently strong desire, and a sufficiently developed will, and enough confident expectation (which you may, if you wish, call faith), the result is quite certain, and you find within the requisite time the solution of the problem. This, of course, is a law which is constantly used by all of us all the time — generally perhaps more or less unconsciously; but nevertheless it is a law which works, and it is an extremely creative law. There are many illustrations of the working of it which you have probably read about and know very well.
QUESTION: Can thoughts be seen in the Astral Light?
ANSWER: Yes, if we have the necessary power of psychic vision, of course they are very easy to see; but if you have not this psychic vision opened you won't see them — you will see just what is before your eyes as usual.
QUESTION: In what form would they be seen or colored?
ANSWER: It just depends upon the person who has created the thought — whether he is able to think with precision and clarity, in which case the thought will achieve a very definite form, and will be embued with pranic life and color in accordance with the quality of thought, emotion, aspiration, desire, that the person injected into it at the time the thought was emitted. It might be said that the kind of thought which is sent forth with the most powerful type of will is usually the most evil and material. Thoughts that are sent out with passion and hatred are very powerful, because they are energized with a tremendous amount of pranic vitality. Stronger still, of course, are thoughts sent out by a highly spiritual entity. Such a thought will actually have the power, when projected into the aura of an individual, or into a room full of people such as this, of producing a peaceful and beneficent influence almost as great as if a Mahatma were present in the very room. These are some of the different effects of thought, but of course the subject is a big one.
QUESTION: The laws of desire and thought — ought they to be used for any practical purpose in one's own life, or used merely for spiritual purposes?
ANSWER: I have been trying to give illustrations of the way we can use them in our daily lives. It just depends: if our lives are selfish then our desires and thoughts will necessarily be selfish; but probably you are attaching too low a value, and too much significance, and at the same time too little significance, to our personal and everyday needs. I think it is a profound mistake to try to divorce the everyday demands of life that we all experience from the spiritual part of our being. Man should be looked upon, and we should look upon ourselves, as complete entities, not chopped up into little parts. If we have spiritual ideals and objectives we shall also have personal duties in life to perform, and thus the laws that we learn and study in Theosophical teaching are properly applied to the regeneration of our personal lives, desires, thoughts, feelings and all the rest. Certainly we should use them.
QUESTION: In what sense did you use the words 'creation of a thought'?
ANSWER: The thought itself is not created, but we are janitors of the temple so to speak, and we can permit or refuse the entrance into the temple of the mind whatever thought we like. In that sense I have been using the idea of creative thought, because we are arbiters of our destiny, and therefore in a true sense creators. Though we do not create thought we nevertheless create those causes for which we are responsible for good or ill.
QUESTION: How is thought affected by Karma? If a man's thoughts are negative and evil and he suddenly changes.
ANSWER: If people have for years or lives thought negatively, that is because that is the state of their own inner being; and once the reaction, which must be extremely painful, as all negative states are not only painful but also destructive — when the suffering caused by such reaction has reached sufficient intensity, and gone on long enough, the man will be compelled by nature's beneficent and compassionate law, to turn inward upon himself and seek the cause of this negative condition, and then he will realize that he has placed himself in a prison of his own making. You will find that his course has been downward into matter all these years or lives, and he will say, "Well, I have put myself in this box, I will get out of it"; and by aspiring upwards and making a good strong effort of his spiritual will, he begins to create real thoughts, living messengers of good for himself and his fellows. Certainly he can begin right now. He has no need to wait. We have it in our hands to do these things.
QUESTION: Would you say that the thoughts fade out of the Astral Light as the effects of them are worked out, or do they remain just as evident?
ANSWER: They tend to dissipate as they are translated into action. Assuming that powerful thoughts are generated, they are not necessarily translated into action. There are plenty of people who are very good at dreaming and inventing clever things, but who are not really men of action; and these thoughts will remain in the astral light until eventually they find a responsive mind, and their energy is dissipated by being worked out in action; but then they are created thereby still more powerful. For example, you think of an invention that nobody knows anything about except the inventor; then somebody takes it up, translates it, and all the world knows about this new invention. Well then the Astral Light is more impregnated by this idea than it was before. If the thoughts are weak then they tend to dissipate more quickly, but if spiritually vital or destructively powerful they last quite a long time.
QUESTION: At that rate there may be cases where there is no record left at all of certain thoughts?
ANSWER: There is actually a record, permanent and indelible, in the higher parts of Akasa. It is so for thought in the same way as there is a permanent and indelible record of all past history. It is there, but there is this difference: that a record may be there, but there is no dynamic force in a record per se. It is like a page of a book, which is nothing unless someone reads it and is affected by it; but thought force, creative thought, energy, which is of course an elemental creature — actually comes into being around an idea or a powerful desire, and is a creative energy in the Universe; and then, when it has worked out its destiny — fulfilled its karmic destiny — then only the record remains as distinct from the undischarged and vital energy. It is like the record that we leave behind us when we depart from this earth. It is not the same thing as having the man here in life. He is the vital entity who can do things the record can do nothing.
If you search Theosophical literature you will come to realize probably, as I have, that it is very difficult to find much teaching or information upon the general question of Faith. In fact one is rather astonished to discover that in the Index to Isis Unveiled, H. P. B. describes Faith as one of the pillars of the devil; and it is rather that attitude to faith that seems to pervade Theosophical literature, for some reason. That is why we chose for our evening's reading that wonderful discourse from the Bhagavad-Gita 'Devotion by means of Faith' (chapter xii, Bhagavad-Gita); from which it is immediately clear that the most enlightened spiritual instructors are quite agreed that faith in that spiritual sense of the term is a sine qua non for the success of the Arjuna who sets out towards the goal of reaching Yoga, or union with the Supreme.
How are we to understand the Divine faith then from the Theosophists' point of view, and just what are they getting at when they throw cold water upon what the ordinary man and woman are accustomed to regard as faith? Is it a great desire to hurt, and to treat with contempt the religious views of other people? Because if so it is a denial, right at the outset, of the fundamental principle upon which our Movement is based. It may appear to be so, but if we look a little deeper we see that all the aspersions are cast, not upon Faith in its higher spiritual meaning, but upon that shadow of real faith which in two words may be summed up as blind belief, or credulity; credulity, the tendency to swallow open-mouthed any glamourous, marvelous idea that passes for truth and philosophy. There is an abundance of credulity in the world today. We all, I suppose, at some time in our lives are unduly credulous. We place our faith and trust in things and people that are not really worthy of it; but is that true faith, or is it blind belief and credulity? Obviously the latter; and it is that looking outside of oneself with credulity which is verily the "pillar of the devil" that H. P. B. speaks of. It takes from man his only hope of any illumination, because he is all the time looking outward, looking for props to lean upon. True faith must be something that is rooted in the eternal and indestructible part of a man's being. It must be something which is based upon recognition of the omnipotence of man's immortal spirit.
The whole of the Theosophical philosophy tends towards a greater and greater understanding and realization of this higher nature in man; and I venture to say that there is no faith for an individual in the sense in which Paul the Initiate uses the term, except in so far as he has had at least a glimpse within himself of the light of the higher nature. For all Truth, all Wisdom, Love, and true Knowledge flow from the higher part of our being.
Faith is the knowledge that Truth exists; it is the knowledge that there are men in the world who know that Truth; it is the certainty that if we aspire rightly and live our lives in terms of that search for the higher realities, we can know with a knowledge which is beyond any possibility of doubt. That is why I have sometimes described faith as knowledge based upon experience — experience, that is, of the higher truths and the higher realities. If we take this view of faith, is it not obvious that the title of our study tonight, 'Faith versus Wisdom,' is a bit of an anomaly? I deny that Faith can ever be set against Wisdom, for faith in the true sense of the word is an indispensable part of Wisdom. Only those who have Wisdom will have Faith, and vice versa to some extent.
Yet there is another aspect of this problem: there are many men and women who may truly be said to possess faith; and yet from the Theosophical point of view have they Wisdom? This is a more difficult problem to answer. They have faith in the sense in which I have been trying to speak of it, and this means necessarily that they have a shadow of inner illumination; but on the other hand they lack something, and that something it is which the great Theosophical Movement has come into the world to bring to men. There is nothing that is of more value to any human soul than that inner feeling of quiet, the certitude that there is a beneficent, protecting influence at the root of his being, and overshadowing, as it were, all his effort on this plane: that certainty, found in so many so-called ordinary men and women of the world, which guides them on their life's Pathway. It comes, as H. P. B. described it, from the fact that in these people the higher nature already predominates over the lower. In fact, that is how she defined a Theosophist. Whether he has ever heard the word or not, whether he has ever seen the literature or not, if the higher nature in him predominates over the lower, that man is a Theosophist.
We believe, however, that Wisdom is something more than this, because it implies the completeness, the wholeness, of one who has balanced his nature, who has achieved unity of spirit, soul, and body; and brought them into such harmony and such union with the higher pole of his being that he can at will identify himself with the Universal Mind, the Universal Soul of nature itself. But that is necessarily an exalted state of being. Wisdom, as you will find in Isis Unveiled and elsewhere, from a Theosophical point of view means the esoteric teaching as a whole. That teaching, it is true, can be found in books; however, will you have Wisdom if you know all that there is in the books? The answer is No. Books are but a means to collect the fuel, as it were, which, truly kindled by the fire of the Spirit, may one of these days burst into the flame of wisdom.
Wisdom is an interior quality, but it does imply knowledge, as distinct from a kind of subjective certainty or faith. There are many mystical people in the world who feel truth intuitively, and yet who would be sorely put to it to explain the reason, the laws, underlying the truth that they dimly perceive intuitively; and this is what the Theosophist means when he distinguishes between Faith and Wisdom. Picture a Mahatma, for example. You cannot conceive of any instance in which he would not be able to supply you with the reasons underlying the situation in which you find yourself, and in which mankind finds itself at any moment in time. He understands the laws — spiritual, intellectual, psychical, cosmical — underlying the evolution of all the kingdoms of nature, and man's relation to them, and to the planet in which he lives. He understands these laws because of his unveiled inner spiritual perception. Because of it he is able to relate any part of his own consciousness with the corresponding part of nature from which the essence of that principle was originally drawn. But for all that, will the Mahatma be an individual who because of his Wisdom is without Faith? On the contrary, he is one who knows with absolute certainty, and therefore expectancy, that when he sets his will in motion with a clear-cut picture in his mind, he will achieve that which he wills to achieve. He has absolute faith, because he has absolute knowledge in the unerring infallibility of the result that he will bring about.
I will read you a passage from the Preface of Isis Unveiled (I, vi) which rather sums up these ideas and shows the Theosophists' attitude thereto:
When, years ago, we first travelled over the East, exploring the penetralia of its deserted sanctuaries, two saddening and ever-recurring questions oppressed our thoughts: Where, when, WHAT is GOD? Who ever saw the IMMORTAL SPIRIT of man, so as to be able to assure himself of man's immortality?
It was while most anxious to solve these perplexing problems that we came into contact with certain men, endowed with such mysterious powers and such profound knowledge that we may truly designate them as the sages of the Orient. To their instructions we lent a ready ear. They showed us that by combining science with religion, the existence of God and immortality of man's spirit may be demonstrated like a problem of Euclid. For the first time we received the assurance that the Oriental philosophy has room for no other faith than an absolute and immovable faith in the omnipotence of man's own immortal self. We were taught that this omnipotence comes from the kinship of man's spirit with the Universal Soul — God! The latter, they said, can never be demonstrated but by the former. Man-spirit proves God-spirit, as the one drop of water proves a source from which it must have come. Tell one who had never seen water, that there is an ocean of water, and he must accept it on faith or reject it altogether. But let one drop fall upon his hand, and he then has the fact from which all the rest may be inferred. After that he could by degrees understand that a boundless and fathomless ocean of water exists. Blind faith would no longer be necessary; he would have supplanted it with KNOWLEDGE. When one sees mortal man displaying tremendous capabilities, controlling the forces of nature and opening up to view the world of spirit, the reflective mind is overwhelmed with the conviction that if one man's spiritual Ego can do this much, the capabilities of the FATHER SPIRIT must be relatively as much vaster as the whole ocean surpasses the single drop in volume and potency. Ex nihilo nihil fit; prove the soul of man by its wondrous powers — you have proved God!
QUESTION: What can you say to a person who says, "I have no faith in anyone"?
ANSWER: I should like to suggest this: that such a person in almost every case that I can think of, has almost certainly never come across the literature of occultism and Theosophy; and it is possible to arouse his interest and to stimulate his zeal to enter upon an experimental research for himself. Look into this literature and see if there is not a message for him there which will change that negative and destructive point of view. To believe in nothing and nobody spells ultimate death; it means that such an individual has no sure hold upon the rudder of the boat of life. But I suppose the thing that will help that person most is the perception, in regard to the one who is trying to help him: "Here is somebody who seems to have a certain inner peace, knowledge, certainty, who has certain spiritual qualities of life." Then he will necessarily begin to wonder where these things come from, and how they can be gained for himself. Perhaps others can give a more illuminating reply.
QUESTION: I have heard that if you want a thing very much and have faith that it will come, and work for it, eventually it comes. How far are we justified in wishing for a thing and trusting that it will come — because it may not be good for us?
ANSWER: Nevertheless it is this engine, this machinery, that makes the world go round; it is this that we are doing every moment of the day; it is this mechanism, or this law, which enables us, when we so decide, to walk out of this room and down into the street. How far are we justified in desiring, hoping, willing and having faith that our objectives will one day be achieved? I say — at least I believe — that we have every justification for the use of this faculty and power. If I were to say the contrary it might mean, for myself and for others, that we would lose the ability to act at all. If we did not feel and believe and know that some day, somewhere, sooner or later we should achieve that upon which we had, set our heart's desire, we would never lift a finger, we would never move a step; and therefore the problem is not as to the means, but rather as to the motive, and the ends that we have set our hearts upon. It is certain we shall achieve what we want to achieve if we just concentrate enough on it.
We have all had proof of it in our own lives: that often the thing that we thought desirable, and wished to achieve, did not come to us perhaps for many years — but it came! And when it eventually came, you remembered how you set out to get that thing many years ago. Is not this the meaning of that passage in the Bhagavad-Gita, where it is pointed out that the ways and objectives of worldly men are manifold, that they have hundreds of objectives; and therefore they only reach these objectives in a scattered kind of way? They achieve some of them, but not all of them, probably because they do not put sufficient concentration and energy into the pursuit of them. "But my devotee," says Krishna, "has only one objective," and that is the finding of union with Him; and in that pursuit, in that concentrated upward aspiration, all other objectives and pursuits eventually become merged. "For," as he says in one of the Discourses, "when one is concentrated in devotion to me, I take the responsibility for the happiness of that individual." It is just a parallel of the other statement in the New Testament of seeking the kingdom of Heaven, and all the other lower things that one needs in life will be added to them. But the great safeguard in the choice of the objectives that we pursue is always and all the time to seek the light of the Inner Self upon that which we wish to achieve. What is the meaning of the Gayatri if not just that: praying that the fire of the Supreme Will shall illumine our hearts and minds, that we may see the direct Pathway before our feet: that it will show its the pitfalls that we are about to stumble into if we set our wills upon achieving such and such a thing. But if in truth we are seeking the spiritual things, then we are always prepared to renounce as unimportant those things that do not fit in with the promptings of the Spirit; for we find that the Spirit is always pushing us in the direction where our true heart is set.
QUESTION: Is it true that when that position is reached, there is no renunciation and no self-sacrifice, because one realizes that one is doing just the thing one should do?
ANSWER: I think it is true; but at the same time the human nature of the individual aspirant is often, in fact in many cases, probably sufficiently active at times to feel the pull of having to give up personal opinion to impersonal and Inner leading as it were. There are many instances in the New Testament and elsewhere of that struggle of the individual aspirant. Nevertheless the law of it all is that if he receives the Inner guidance, then he has at all costs to follow it lest he lose it; and once it is experienced, then that is at once the most valuable and precious of all possessions.
QUESTION: Is intellectual knowledge a hindrance towards gaining true Wisdom?
ANSWER: We should say that it depends very largely upon the type of individual concerned. You know there is the type sometimes described as "stupid saint"; to such a one, some intellectual knowledge would be very valuable, because it would round out and supply the missing link in that individual! You would find that he never thinks at all, that he lives in the realms of sentiment and emotion largely — 'feeling' would be a better expression; and some good, sound, healthy philosophy would be invaluable to that individual. But to the type of person who readily reads vast quantities of literature and who becomes the armchair-philosopher, and never translates it into action, more intellectual study becomes a hindrance; and to such a person the more mystical and devotional kinds of Yoga, as set forth in such a book as the Bhagavad-Gita would tend to round out the unbalanced nature.
QUESTION: While it is a good thing to have faith, to take what we are told by a Teacher we trust, should we not always have a sort of "divine discontent," and always an urge to get something more — a feeling that that is not the end?
ANSWER: I think we should be in a very happy situation, if we realized — which I imagine we should — if we felt we had a Teacher, any of us individually, who had given us so much that it was impossible to want any more. But I venture to say that there is no aspirant or disciple who has not that feeling of what the questioner calls "divine discontent," always urging him forward and upward, always to seek and penetrate farther and farther into the depths of his own being. It must be so, because if we become completely satisfied, Nature won't let us stay there so very long. We have to go forward and upward again. If we did not feel the need of any further progress, we should stay where we are and not do very much about it!
Friends: H. P. B. quoted in The Secret Doctrine those familiar words, "Knowledge dwells in heads replete with thoughts of other men, Wisdom in minds attentive to their own"; and an early Christian writer remarked that the business of Wisdom is to discern first that which is true, and then to be able to discern that which is false. Now Theosophy — the Wisdom of the Ages — points out the fundamental duality, as it were, that runs throughout the manifested Universe: that while the whole of manifested nature is rooted in an indissoluble unity, which it is the business of Wisdom to discover so that we can realize it in our own consciousness, nevertheless, directly we pass in thought from that boundless, infinite unity which in this philosophy we call Parabrahman, the Absolute, then we come down in thought necessarily to the contrast in nature between Spirit and Matter, subject and object, and so forth.
This, applied to man, immediately shows us that we have a spiritual pole to our being, as well as a material one; and in Isis Unveiled, the first book of Mme. Blavatsky, she pointed out that there is indwelling within the external form of man and of the Universe a connecting link between Spirit and Matter, which in the human entity she calls "the Real Man." Now it is the whole purpose of Wisdom, I venture to suggest, to show how this inner Real Entity in man, which is the thinking, human, striving soul, the Personal Ego, the Astral Monad, the Manas — call it what you will — it is this Entity, as it were, fixed, crucified, in Space between heaven above and the earth beneath, which has to tread the Golgotha of life, which is a pilgrim marching literally through eternity, from age to age, but which is not unconditionally immortal.
Wherever there is a spark of the Boundless All, there you have all the sevenfold principles of life in embryo. It is purely a question of degree of unfoldment: the consciousness is latent in the life of an atom as it is in the highest God that your mind can rise to: therefore it will not come as a shock, the idea that this intermediate principle in man, striving towards Wisdom on the one hand, and pulled down towards matter on the other, is a being that has to win immortality; and the process by which he mounts the ladder of life, the stairway of evolution, is the seven rungs of his own being. Occultism is the process; as T. Subba Row said in the early days of this Movement: "It is the process by which man learns to transfer his individual consciousness from his mortal, material body, up the stairway of his being to the incorruptible world of non-being represented by his seventh principle." So Wisdom is that state of consciousness which is achieved when the human entity has learned how to merge itself into an indissoluble unity with its own Divine part, its Higher Self, the Higher Ego — what in Theosophical terminology is called Manas indissolubly united to Buddhi.
All men have this higher nature. It is, if we did but know it, a god not in embryo but in actuality, dwelling in full power, omniscient almost, one with the Universal World-Soul. And it is because this Higher Nature of ours is part of that indissoluble unity of the Supreme Soul itself, that we have an aspect of our being which is of the nature of Truth. Half our task is but to open ourselves, open a certain door of our being, that we may enter into the inspiration, the light, the knowledge, which is actually inherent in that part of our being.
I dared to call this lecture 'The Dual Aspect of Wisdom,' and while I do not want to concentrate attention too much upon the lower side, the lower aspect of wisdom, nevertheless it must be evident to all of us, as was shown so perfectly by St. James in the New Testament, that there is a terrestrial, psychic, and devilish Wisdom, if it may be so called, as well as the Divine nature. I think that if you will permit me I will just read you the passage, because it shows the Wisdom that is to be found scattered throughout the New Testament. In the third chapter (11-17), you find these words, and here is shown very beautifully the contrast between these two poles of man's being:
Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
You will remember that H. P. B. in the early days of the Movement in a mood of protest at the lives of certain Theosophists, pointed out that pure water could not be given to the world out of a foul bucket, and that the lower nature of men must be cleansed.
Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries, either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
I ask you to note that phrase:
This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
There you get in the New Testament the statement — one of the statements — of the dual aspect of Wisdom; and H. P. B. has a remarkable article dealing with the subject in one of the early volumes of Lucifer (her own magazine) where she pointed out how often Theosophists are taken to task because they believe in the Wisdom of the Ancients: they uphold it, they stand for it, they believe in it; while the disciples of modern knowledge, so to speak, think and believe that modern scientists, modern inventions and thought and psychology and so-called philosophy, are in every way equal, if not superior, to the Wisdom of old. The question is, "Is that so?" H. P. B. challenges the whole position very, very strongly, and her words are so suggestive, so pregnant with illuminating ideas, as well as rather amusing, that I should like to read you some of the passages that she has in this article. She is replying to somebody who has put the point of view that modern wisdom is superior to the Ancient. She says:
. . . Our correspondent is welcome to his own views, but so are we to ours. Let him imagine that the Eiffel Tower dwarfs the Pyramid of Ghizeh into a mole-hill, and the Crystal Palace grounds transform the hanging gardens of Semiramis into a kitchen garden — if he likes. But if we are seriously "challenged" by him to show "in what respect our age of hourly progress and gigantic thought" — a progress a trifle marred, however, by our Huxleys being denounced by our Spurgeons, and the University ladies, senior classics and wranglers, by the "hallelujah lasses" — is inferior to the ages of, say, a hen-pecked "Socrates and a cross-legged Buddha," then we will answer him, giving him, of course, our own personal opinion.
Our age, we say, is inferior in wisdom to any other, because it professes, more visibly every day, contempt for truth and justice, without which there can be no wisdom. Because our civilization, built up of shams and appearances, is at best like a beautiful green morass, a bog, spread over a deadly quagmire. Because this century of culture and worship of matter, while offering prizes and premiums for every "best thing" under the sun, from the biggest baby and the largest orchid down to the strongest pugilist and the fattest pig, has no encouragement to offer to morality, no prize to give for any moral virtue. . . . — 'The Dual Aspect of Wisdom' (Lucifer, Vol. VII, London, Sept. 15, 1890).
(She is wonderful in the language she chooses, is H. P. B.!)
I think that none of us can question the truth of this challenge that she throws down; and some of you who have read that book called The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett will remember that one of the Masters there states that Wisdom will ever be denied but to those who seek it for its own sake without any secondary motive of turning it to personal profit and gain. The whole of the Theosophical Movement rests upon that high endeavor.
You will find the lower side of the dual aspect of Wisdom rampant in the world today. Go out and look, for example, at the advertisements in some present-day magazines; and there you will find every kind of psychism and claptrap and exploitation of human beings, where money is asked for initiation into so-called Rosicrucian rites; where the 'secrets,' so-called, of the Ancient Wisdom are offered to be sold for money in the market-places of commerce. You will find every kind of medium, spiritualistic performance, and goodness knows what. Now all these things are expressions of this lower, psychic, terrestrial aspect of wisdom. It is not that the psychic and the so-called clairvoyant who take your money and offer to tell you something about yourself do not tell you a good deal that you may find very interesting and true, and that may give you all sorts of pleasant dreams about the future, which often also are true. But the main point is that true Wisdom cannot be obtained where there are any motives of self-seeking of whatever kind; and anything in the nature of personal gain or taking of money in the realm of the occult is fatal to Wisdom; yet it is everywhere rampant at the present time, in this crisis in the world's history, when the earth is passing through one of the critical points of her great cycle. Men and women are looking at each other, examining themselves, not knowing quite what is going to happen; and it is at such times as these that the soothsayers and the clairvoyants and the like burst forth in a great crescendo of psychic activity — the terrestrial lower wisdom, if you like to call it so.
There is another aspect that we have to deal with. It is, briefly, that if there is a true Wisdom in the world, there is also a spurious wisdom, shown forth by this manifestation that I have been speaking about; and I must not fail to mention that it is pre-eminently shown forth in that flood of literature that may be termed pseudo-occult, pseudo-theosophic, which again diverts men's minds from the true Wisdom, fills them up with a lot of psychic junk. The seeds of thought that are in these books sink deep into the psychic nature of the individual, and bring forth but evil fruit. That is another manifestation; and further, one should mention here the fact that there is such a thing as wisdom in evil, where there are self-conscious human beings who have made evil their God, and who have a knowledge of all the laws of the universe, and can turn them to their own evil ends — in one word, sorcery.
These are some illustrations of the lower aspect of Wisdom. You can work them out in a thousand different ways; but I should like to dwell upon the higher aspect by referring to what are called in certain parts of Theosophical literature, and the literature of the Ancients, the seven Jewels of Wisdom, which have relation exclusively to True Wisdom or Magic: those seven Golden Keys or key-doctrines around which The Secret Doctrine of Blavatsky was actually written. Test this statement for yourselves. Those seven doctrines I have no doubt you are absolutely familiar with, but may I just enumerate them for you? The first is the doctrine of Reincarnation; the second Karma, the law of cause and effect; the third the doctrine of Hierarchies, which means that everything in the universe is interlinked and interblended with everything else, which it really interpenetrates in its essential nature. You will see how everything in The Secret Doctrine can be related to one of these seven jewels, and therefore they are worth remembering. The fourth is the doctrine of what in Sanskrit is called Swabhava, which is the essential characteristic of a thing, of a being, of a Monad. This, interpreted, means that a man is in his outward nature but a reflexion of what he is in his inward nature, and that everything in the universe is different, although rooted in unity; that there are not two beings in the universe alike, any more than there are any two atoms, or two grains of sand, or two flowers, or two trees, or two beasts, alike. Every single thing in the universe has its essential characteristic, its Swabhava, its keynote. You and I, we all, have our characteristic spiritual tone, our note, that we try to show forth; and in the great drama of life we learn to bring forth from within ourselves, that is from within that seed-root of Divinity, that Monad, the germ from which all our lower being springs, which is its Father in Heaven. It is this which provides our characteristic, essential, true Self. It is the eternal 'I' which never perishes.
The fifth key is the doctrine of Evolution; and the sixth is related to something that I was saying just now: it is the doctrine of what in Sanskrit — if you will forgive me for quoting a Sanskrit term again — is called the Amrita-Yana and the Pratyeka-Yana, which means the right-hand Path and the left-hand Path, the Path that leads to Wisdom, and the path that leads downwards — the Path of Wisdom and the path of self. There again you see the contrast of the two aspects of Wisdom — the sixth of the keys around which The Secret Doctrine is written. And the last — Atma-Vidya, the knowledge of the Self and of the marvelous teachings concerning how the One becomes the Many.
I asked you to allow me to mention those seven keys to you for a particular purpose. There are certain formulae in the Theosophical system of thought that as a student I have found immensely helpful — things that one can make a part of one's being, and apply to any problem of life in meditation. Whenever one has a quiet moment one can revert to the statement of fundamental principles that is given in the twelfth chapter of Volume II of Isis Unveiled. There are ten of them. You can turn to that formula and to the three Fundamental Propositions in the Proem to The Secret Doctrine, and find the basis on which the whole philosophy is said to rest: these seven jewels that I have just referred to, and the seven or ten Paramitas that are given in The Voice of the Silence.
Now the last thought that I want to leave with you is the correspondence between the order of the seven Paramitas, the Buddha's virtues which the disciple makes his code of ethical conduct, and the order of the Seven Jewels. The Paramitas are so beautiful that I will read them to you, and I want to try to show that this correspondence is most suggestive.
The first of these keys: Dana, "the key of charity and love immortal." At first sight does this connect with the first jewel — the doctrine of Reincarnation? I believe you will find that it does if you think deeply enough about it, for reincarnation means regeneration. Reincarnation or reimbodiment takes place in a human being when the indwelling consciousness has grown to that point where the existing form no longer serves it; and then there is a death of a certain part of the being, a regeneration and a rebirth into a higher state, into the higher part of the nature, and it is here and by this process that all love comes into a man's life. He cannot live or express Wisdom or Charity immortal unless this regenerative process is going on.
The second Paramita — Sila, "the key of harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect and leaves no further room for Karmic action." I think that it is sufficiently obvious that the second jewel, the doctrine of Karma, exactly corresponds to the second Paramita.
The third is not so obvious but contains an inspiring thought — Kshanti, "patience sweet, that nought can ruffle." How does this relate to the third of the jewels, the doctrine of Hierarchies? I suggest that there is no more perfect example of that patience sweet that the disciple is called upon to show forth in his life than the Silent Watcher, who in The Secret Doctrine, you remember, is shown as sitting at the threshold of darkness which he will not quit until the weary, sore-footed pilgrims of humanity have each passed into the great Nirvana before him. That is the picture of the great summit, the Heaven of the spiritual, psychological Hierarchy of Adepts — the Silent Watcher of our world or Universe.
The fourth Paramita — Viraga, "indifference to pleasure and to pain, illusion conquered, truth alone perceived." I suggest that there is a very direct correspondence between that and the doctrine of Swabhava, the essential characteristic of a nature, for which you will have to go to the very root and core of a man's being. When the consciousness is rooted in the higher part of the man's being, then only is it possible for it to show forth his perfect spiritual keynote or tone, and that balanced indifference to pleasure and pain.
Then Virya, "the dauntless energy that fights its way to the supernal TRUTH, out of the mire of lies terrestrial." What better illustration can you have of evolution than that Paramita? It depicts the whole struggle out of the corruption of matter to the incorruptible world of the Spirit. That is Virya, the dauntless energy and courage that we are called upon to develop.
The sixth Paramita — Dhyana, "whose gate once opened leads the Naljor towards the realm of Sat eternal and its ceaseless contemplation." This, being interpreted, means meditation; and meditation, as you will agree, I believe and hope, is intimately related to the sixth of the seven jewels, that which is concerned with the Amrita-Yana, the Immortal vehicle, the right-hand Path; but there is no treading of this Path except by the practice of the Paramita called Dhyana or Meditation.
And the last — Prajna, "the key to which makes of a man a god, creating him a Bodhisattva, son of the Dhyanis." That relates to the last and final jewel, Atma-Vidya, knowledge of the Self, the means by which the One, the Supreme, the Infinite, became the many in all this marvelous manifested Universe.
QUESTION: To which, if any, of the different keys would you relate the law of cycles?
ANSWER: I should relate it to the law of Reincarnation or Reimbodiment, which is a manifestation of the law of Cycles; but you must remember that all these Jewels in the Doctrines of Theosophy are interblended with each other. You cannot understand one without the other. You cannot understand the law of Karma, the law of the rhythmic flow of cause and effect, which is also intimately related with the doctrine of Cycles, unless you understand the doctrine of ebb and flow as it expresses itself in the law of Reincarnation and Reimbodiment; for this is the rhythmic pulse of Nature that goes through the life-cycle of the tiniest infusoria: even a mosquito, a butterfly, any of these creatures, exhibits the law of cycles — it reimbodies itself. Then, too, it is shown forth in the attraction of the tides, in the phases of the moon, in the pilgrimage of the planets in their orbit around the sun, in the birth and death of worlds, of solar systems: for worlds are born and die just as man, only in infinitely longer cycles of time. I think you can relate it to the first, and if you wish, to the second of the jewels. I hope that this is responsive to the question.
QUESTION: Is it correct to say that the left-hand Path is incomplete wisdom because mastery of the lower self has not been obtained? In other words, incomplete because inhibited by the personal?
ANSWER: In a certain sense that is perfectly true, for we all of us fail to tread the highest Path in any moment that we act from a consciousness centered in our personality. It is the personality which enshrouds our spiritual vision and prevents our seeing the Light, and therefore prevents our seeing the right-hand Path. Do you remember the definition of these two Paths given by Master Koot Hoomi in The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, where on a certain left-hand page — I have forgotten the number, but a certain left-hand page [page 114] — he gave a definition of the Amrita-Yana and the Pratyeka-Yana, and he shows that these are simply another way of stating the doctrines relating to the individuality and the personality, and the Personal Ego and its identity with the Astral Monad? Now the Personal Ego is that, you remember, which goes to Devachan; and what is the Personal Ego? The Personal Ego, he says, is a combination of the five lower principles; and the Immortal vehicle: Amrita-Yana, the Higher Ego, is, of course, the combination of Higher Manas united to Buddhi.
QUESTION: Re the lower and distorted aspects of wisdom such as one finds in modern science and even psychism: do not they conform with the unity of Evolution, since in the Cosmic economy there can be no such thing as waste, and there may conceivably be people who need the left-hand Path to find the Right?
ANSWER: I would interpret this in a slightly different sense, that is to say, what is called the descending arc and the ascending arc: the Path of forth-going, as it is called, and the Path of ascent, or return — the Path of Involution into matter, and Evolution out of it. I personally am a little in doubt about this idea that men need an evil path. I do not think that this is what is meant; but they do have to descend into matter, and they do have to evolve out of it; and there is another interesting point from a student's point of view here. You know the doctrine of a Planetary Chain, and you know that this Planetary Chain is represented symbolically as a ring of circles, and it goes down on the left side and goes up on the right side. The side on the left is the descending, and on the right the ascending arc. Has it ever occurred to you what is the correspondence in our lives of that idea? It is this: that when we live in the higher part of our being we express the spiritual qualities: we are identifying ourselves in consciousness with the superior qualities of the Planetary Chain, and what in Buddhist — or rather Brahmanistic — terminology is called the Lokas; but when we live in the lower part of our being we are concerning ourselves with the descending arc and with the talas — a stimulating thought: that we can live in the lokas, or in the talas: in the higher spiritual part of the being, or be buried in the personal.
QUESTION: Does not a study of technical Theosophy tempt one towards becoming merely an arm-chair philosopher? In other words, do you not think that the appeal of The Secret Doctrine is more to the intellect than to the heart?
ANSWER: Those who have studied H. P. B.'s teachings realize that there is some truth in what the questioner has suggested: that it is possible to study these teachings and become a mere arm-chair philosopher. In other words, they can be studied from a purely intellectual point of view. You may become acquainted with a great deal of her teachings, and do nothing whatever about it, merely remain sitting on the fence or in your arm-chair, and entirely fail to lead the life, as she stressed in The Secret Doctrine, which is the necessary pre-requisite to an obtaining of any measure of Wisdom at all.
The Theosophist has a perfectly complete answer to the charge of the complexity of the doctrines hiding the essential life of the spirit — which is another way, I take it, of saying what the questioner meant. All I can say is that if any individual finds there to be such a doctrine, all he has to do is to concentrate upon the ethical aspects of the teaching, as found, for example, in The Voice of the Silence, in the seven Paramitas I read to you. I venture to think if he sets to work to practise the seven Paramitas of perfection, he will have his hands full; and if our brother will give himself that exercise I think he won't have much to complain about, because he will understand a very great deal by the time he has finished that exercise.
I imagine the Masters of Wisdom had a very good reason for casting their philosophy and message to the Western world in the way they did; and one must come to the conclusion that since the characteristic of our present age is an endeavor to develop the thinking principle — a characteristic of our Western people is that they want reasons for everything — in the Theosophical philosophy they get a closely reasoned explanation for almost everything in the Universe. I think that is sufficient: if you want an explanation of the Universe there is the philosophy to satisfy you; and if you want to live the life, you have the Sermon on the Mount; you have the teachings of Buddha; you have the ethical principles of all the great religions, as well as the precepts to be found in The Voice of the Silence. It is only that the Theosophical system is infinitely rich not only in ethical ideas but in philosophy as well. There is food for the spirit, there is food for the heart, and satisfaction for the intellectual part of the man, in the whole system. At least that is how I understand it.
The result of Theosophical study should be that that inner something which H. P. B. called the Real Man should come to predominate over the exterior form and take possession of it, and thereby become in a real sense of the word the Captain of the ship. It is something which those who have taken the pursuit of spiritual things seriously must have glimpsed to a larger or smaller extent: a realization that comes, after a certain period of study and effort along the lines of the spiritual life, as a result of inward and upward striving. It is an inflow of energy and inspiration from the higher part of their being, which enables them to steer the ship of their own life with a sense of conscious direction which they never had up to that moment.
I wonder what this title, "The Evolution of the Soul" signifies to you. Probably if you have not had the inestimable privilege, as we believe it to be, of studying the Theosophical philosophy, you will be saying to yourselves that the evolution of the soul has reference to the development and growth of something within a man, and you will probably leave it at that. But to the Theosophist, immediately you talk of the evolution of the soul a vast picture presents itself — not of man alone, but of the whole universe. One of the fundamental statements of the Theosophical philosophy is that the whole universe exists for but one purpose, and that is the evolution of the soul.
What is meant by that statement? For there is another one that goes side by side with it: that every entity in the universe either was a man, or is a man at the present time, or will be in the future. This idea of the whole universe existing for the evolution of the soul immediately suggests that Soul is everywhere present: that life and spirituality and consciousness are present at every point in space; that there is no such thing at all as dead matter anywhere. Therefore to the Theosophist, when he thinks of this problem of the growth of the soul, it signifies the unfolding of Divine powers and capacities in the life which is everywhere present, even in that which scientists call inorganic matter. That means that we are not merely concerned in our thought with the problems of man and his growth and development, but we realize that the whole of the Universe of which we are a part, is a living entity, bound together in one indissoluble unity in all its parts, in all its kingdoms, and united by the unfolding intelligence which is indwelling in every atom of which it is composed.
Think of the vast ocean of space in which this Universe "lives and moves and has its being." Everything proceeds forth from it, and one day will return into it again. But immediately you think of evolution and growth you wonder, Where did it all begin? Actually what is the origin of a solar system? Well, if you look at the Universe in toto as a vast plane which is periodically the playground of numberless Universes which come and go incessantly, then you realize that the birth and death of a man, the birth and death of a planet, is a process not different from that of the birth and ultimate dissolution of a solar system. Therefore, when we study man himself, we realize that there is something within man which is eternal, which is undying, and which is, as it were, a seed of life into which everything returns at the end of any one of his excursions into manifested existence, such as a single human incarnation. There is that into which all this outward manifestation that we call a man is indrawn; and then at a single moment in time, under cyclic law, that seed — that divine spark, if you will — fructifies: puts forth its energy, and once again, evolving and growing from within without, a little child is born, and the entity that we call a man emerges once again on the stage of human life. I would like to suggest to you the thought that exactly the same process takes place in the evolution of a universe or a solar system. There is a germ within the root of a solar system which periodically fructifies in exactly the same way.
Evolution, according to Theosophy, proceeds in three streams. We must not merely regard it as an evolution of form. If we do we should be materialists. That is why the scientists' search to answer the riddle of evolution fails, because they do not realize that it is not a problem of the unfolding, development and differentiation of species of physical forms at all. It is essentially a problem of the evolution of the soul: the indwelling life within the form. Yet they came very close to the true solution of the problem of evolution when they discovered that the embryonic stages of the evolution of the foetus recapitulate all the kingdoms of nature. They deduced from that that this human form of ours has actually descended from animal ancestors. Yet there is no greater illusion in the world than that; and it is absolutely necessary when attempting to speak upon Theosophical doctrines concerning evolution, to draw a sharp line of distinction between the philosophical and religious conception of the evolution of the soul on the one hand, and the scientific ideas of Darwin, and the evolution of human forms from animal ancestors, on the other hand.
I said a moment ago that evolution proceeds in three streams. These are, the spiritual, the intellectual, and the physical; and in man these three streams become evident and provable to ourselves. We can observe these three streams if we observe ourselves. We know that we have an external form; and if we delve deep into ourselves we realize the existence of the intellectual and thinking part of us that H. P. B. called the Real Man; and then, if we delve still deeper, we realize that there is a sovereign immortal spiritual principle, brooding over and illuminating the two lower principles; and it is that which is the fountain and origin of all the inspiration which any man at any time ever became the recipient of.
The beginnings of life in any solar system, and the origin of any individual man, must be a subject of the profoundest interest to any thinking person. You remember the words of Edwin Arnold in The Song Celestial:
Nor I, nor thou, nor any one of these,
Ever was not, nor ever will not be,
For ever and for ever afterwards.
And probably there is no one who ever began the study of Theosophical teachings who was not profoundly perplexed about this riddle of the eternity of life, of this beginningless and endless existence which we are attempting to show forth the characteristics of.
I would like to try to elucidate a little. What does it mean when we say to ourselves that we as spiritual beings never have a beginning and we can never have an end? Does it convey anything to you or not? Here is the answer that Theosophy gives. You cannot separate yourself in thought from all the other beings of the universe, and especially you cannot separate yourselves from that to which you owe your origin. What is the origin of an individual man? It is what the New Testament called his Father in Heaven — not in the sense of any personal God according to the teachings of the churches; but there was that spiritual principle which the Avatara of the New Testament declared himself to be at one with; and it is exactly the same for any one of us. There comes a time when we realize that we ourselves owe our origin to — we are indeed the children of — that divine part of us. See how this links on to the question of "Never was I not, and never shall I hereafter cease to be."
There are three streams of evolution: spiritual, intellectual, and physical, and the physical and objective part of us is but the child or manifestation of the Inner Man, and that Inner Man is in turn the child of the spiritual part of us; so that you can say that an outer form of a universe, of a planet or a man, signifies an indwelling entity, eternally linked to and the expression of a spiritual being behind it. The divine entity, which is the parent of a man, for example, is in every case a God — "so many men on earth, so many Gods in heaven." The men that we are today — fallible, erring, but striving upwards to union with those deities — what were we yesterday? Obviously if evolution is a truth, then there was a time aeons ago, when we were actually passing through and struggling out of the beast kingdom, as today we are passing through and struggling to emerge from the human kingdom into something higher. Do you see the point? That entity which at one time was imbodied in the kingdom of the animals, is today, as a result of its inward growth and development, imbodied as a human being.
And the divine being, that immortal entity which is the inspiriting force behind the evolution of any being or world or system: what about it? There was a time when it was a thinking man, when it too looked to its divine parent. So you see that life and consciousness is a hierarchy of being and existence. There are many entities within man. Man is not just a simple being: he is a very complex entity; and those beings, if we look within ourselves, exist on a hierarchical principle; and that Golden Chain, that Sutratman, that thread of eternal consciousness on which our whole being is strung, has no possible beginning and no possible ending, for it is rooted in the very fabric and structure of the Universe itself.
Just think to yourself of this chain of life: eternal because ever being, that is strung upon that thread and is progressing to higher and higher states of being. The man that we are today, tomorrow will have won his way, if he runs the cosmic race successfully, up to that higher stage of being where he in his turn will have become the inspiriting force behind the men of tomorrow. So the men of today emerge at the end of a great world period of evolution as perfected God-men, fully self-conscious, fully developed; and when the time comes for the manifestation of life in a new period — a new world period — then the humanity of the last period become the leaders, spiritually speaking, of those who will emerge on the stage of human life in that period, who were ensouling the world of the animals during the preceding world period. So the evolution of the soul presents a rather complex picture, if I may so express it.
Lastly, I would like to leave this thought with you and invite you to raise questions on all those many aspects of the doctrines of evolution that I have left unsaid, and that last thought is this: if, in the unfolding of the powers within man it is possible for us to unfold spiritual and intellectual and psychical powers equal to those of the highest entity that the mind of man can conceive of, think of the noble and grand picture of the great Teachers of the human race, as they are recorded in religious history, for example, those who are virtually God-men. If those beings have truly trodden the ways of men, they show forth an ideal, they hold up a lamp, which shows us that what they have done we must necessarily be able to do and to achieve one of these days. Why? Because it is a fundamental of this philosophy that there are no special privileges in nature for any being in the Universe, except those that the individual has won by his own efforts and striving. Therefore the Mahatma and all great souls possess the powers that they do over space and matter simply because they have found the way as a result of a long series of lives of bringing forth the virtually omniscient powers of their own spirits, and have acquired full control of their own mechanism of consciousness. It is actually that goal that humanity is set in its evolutionary progress to unfold from within itself: that spiritual power by which the human, thinking entity within us is raised into indissoluble one-ness with the divine principle of his being. That is the goal of all Theosophical and spiritual endeavor; and those Teachers of the human race who now hold the lamp of spiritual truth for us, at one time stood exactly where we stand today. They are men like us: but spiritual men, who know because they have realized the power of the Divinity that lies at the root of their being.
Mr. Sidney King [member of Phoenix Lodge] at our White Lotus Day celebration the other night made the statement that the teachings of H. P. B. could be understood as a kind of algebraic formula, which, rightly understood, could be applied to the understanding of any problem of life. We are to consider tonight the subject of what in Theosophy is called the Real Man. Let us apply the proper algebraic formula to an understanding of what is meant by this term. The Real Man signifies that there is something else besides reality in man, and if you turn to H. P. B.'s statements of fundamental principles of the Oriental philosophy, you find her laying it down that man is not his objective body, but that there is within him this something which she calls the Real Man, which is an indwelling and energizing principle; and that this Inner Man is ever striving, acting, thinking, feeling, on this evolutionary journey through earth-life, upwards to that ever-brooding Divinity which is at once its parent and its inspirer. We understand our algebraical formula to suggest that man divided into the simplest terms for easiest comprehension may be considered as spiritual, intellectual, and vehicular. In other words there are conjoined in man at any one time three actual streams of evolution. I do not know whether you have brooded upon this question. "Three streams of evolution" seems to suggest that there are entities evolving on all three levels of man's constitution.
Now then, this question of the Real Man will not be comprehensible unless we succeed in showing that that which we call reality in man is something eternal and indestructible. The permanent individuality in man is actually rooted in the spiritual pole of his being, which is in itself dual in character. You notice that H. P. B. in the Fundamental Propositions of the Secret Doctrine lays it down that duality pervades the manifested universe directly you drop in thought from the highest metaphysical Triad, of which Eternal Duration, Space, and Motion are the three symbolic terms. Therefore we need not be surprised when we find that man in his highest spiritual part is dual. Even his Monadic Essence could not express itself did it not do so in two streams or parts: one spiritual and having the aspect of consciousness, and the other, having the aspect of substance, the vehicle side of spiritual conscious life: and these two together make the dual Atma-Buddhic Monad. It is this which is the highest entity evolving in that septenary Cosmos which we call the human being. That entity is performing an evolutionary journey — a long one; and because it is doing so it may be said that it actually expresses the highest of the three evolutionary streams that are combined in man.
Let us drop in thought to the next part of our being, which H. P. B. in a generalizing way calls the Real Man. This also is dual. According to the septenary classification you get Manas and Kama. Here you have the center of what is called the Human Ego, and this Human Ego passes actually from life to life. The Reincarnating Ego is the higher part of this kama-manasic dual entity, and during life the consciousness is centered mostly in the lower part of it. But the Real Man is centered in the higher part; and it is this higher part of the dual Human Ego which owes the permanence of its individuality to the spiritual brooding presence of the Monadic Essence above it.
Therefore, as you would expect, after death there comes a division which cuts in twain this dual Human Ego which H. P. B. calls the Real Man, and that is why this division of man into a threefold entity, consisting of two duads and a triad, is a very good one, because it shows us how the different workings of man's nature, during life and after death, actually take place. After death there occurs a division between the manas and the kama, and the higher part of it is drawn upwards until it becomes permanently grafted by a process of interior disruption, as it were, on that eternal principle which is represented by man's spiritual nature. And so you gain immediately the conception that it is we men living here in earth-life who are the transient beings; but that there is an eternal Pilgrim within the heart of every man, which is here not once but many times, expressing itself through bodies of flesh, but relatively remaining untouched — that is to say no more touched than the actor is by playing the successive roles that fall to his lot.
This immediately suggests the thought to us: since most of us are necessarily absorbed, identified to a very large extent, with the material pursuits of life — the struggle for existence and what not — there is an urgent necessity to find a means of refreshing our objective daily consciousness, if I may so express it: that part of our being which not only suffers fatigue, but is overburdened with the cares of this world; that suffers fears and anxieties and what not — which are but a symbol of the unreal man, but a symbol of the transient personality. Theosophy, if it does anything at all, attracts men's attention to that higher part of their being where in the midst of storm and material difficulties the Real Man may be like a Master Mariner with his hand upon the helm of the ship of life. He may provide, as it were, for the harassed human soul the port that is always calm, and into which the lower man can enter, if he will, at any time — whether it be while he is at work, or whether he deliberately enters into a state of spiritual meditation. It is because the Real Man is a fact that, if we go about it in the right way, we can raise our consciousness and fix it in that higher state from which balance, discrimination, pure and compassionate judgment flow. This is the application of the Theosophical formula, this algebraic formula that we were speaking of the other night.
Now another thought immediately occurs; it is that this permanent individuality lasts for an almost inconceivably long period of time, and it actually incarnates on this planet — let alone the other planets and globes of the planetary chain — I do not know, and should be afraid to say, how many times, how many incarnations it has to go through; but eventually this Human Ego wins what is called its Immortality. If you have studied the question you will know that mankind as they are — average men and women — are at best but conditionally immortal: in other words the human part of them is not sufficiently united to, not sufficiently illuminated by, the higher part of their being, to be able to claim that they are immortal entities. To be an immortal entity is the supreme achievement of evolution — not as ordinarily understood, but understood in terms of occult science.
When a Mahatma reaches the end of the first five steps on the initiatory Pathway, he enters into an indissoluble state of union between the human Ego and the God within him. It is to this: the first part, the beginning of this process, that all Theosophists are striving: otherwise our endeavors have no meaning at all. Step by step we are learning to raise this Human Ego, this reincarnating entity, to a recognition that there is that eternal reality in the depths of our being, from which we may get hurried away by the affairs of life, by the domination of what the Bhagavad-Gita calls the objects of the senses. These things serve to becloud man's vision: the Real Man identifies himself with the lower man and he forgets the reality not only of his Divine origin but of his permanent home: and then such a man loses his calm, loses his perspective; he is unable to concentrate and do those things which a spiritual man is able to do.
The Real Man is actually composed of all the inherent characteristics or character of the individual. In other words it is Karma. Karma is that moral kernel of the individual which is indestructible, but at the same time which can only be modified from within without — by growth. Therefore if we want to change our destiny, our Karma, and therefore our character, we simply have to recognise that it is our whole being which has to alter. Whatever we are today is simply an expression of that inherent, essential keynote of our being which has been sounding down through all the ages as we incarnated here, always sounding out a similar kind of note, until step by step we learn to clarify, to purify, and to raise the tone pitch and the key, until finally we ourselves become convinced that the Real Man is a fact; and we strive from that point forward to realize its presence in our lives from day to day.
The question of the destruction of illusion is one that naturally can be treated from very many aspects. What do we mean by illusion? Because after all, all the philosophers of India — metaphysicians and what not — have told us for centuries after centuries that all the manifested universe is illusion. Now of course we know that in a sense that is so, but on the other hand, as H. P. B. pointed out, this universe that we live in, this planet on which we live, our own bodies that are related to that planet, are very real to us. They have a very outstanding importance, relative importance, but none the less necessary for us to take into consideration. We cannot leave it out of account like the great school of Deniers, who say that there is no matter, and that it does not exist. No! Our School is one of what is called objective idealism, that is to say that the Universe has an objective existence during certain periods of time, and after the expiration of that period of time it is withdrawn into the bosom of That from which all things proceed, and unto which all must again return. Now that Infinite, Divine Principle is actually the Light of our being, the source of all our spiritual strength, and it is this that we rely upon to join ourselves to, to reach to union with, in order to destroy, to rise above, the erratic illusion. There is no other means. I speak of illusion of all sorts — whether it results in every kind of what is called in Christian terminology 'sinful action'; or whether it results in misguided action based upon ignorant searching for Truth in regions where it simply does not exist. I refer to those seekers who investigate into the mayavi (illusory) realms of the Astral Light, into the dismal regions of spooks and what not: seeking to tear off the veils that Nature has kindly put upon their inner sight; seeking to open the pathway of their being into these astral realms, where indeed they become overpowered by the great influence of the very serpent of illusion: for everything there bears a kind of glamourous aspect, and yet, as The Voice of the Silence says, "under every flower there is a serpent coiled." There is no wisdom in these psychic regions; there is no spiritual object, no spiritual reality at all, in the purely psychic faculties that we share with the beasts. They have these faculties too, but they are proper in the beasts, because they are at that stage of evolution where their progress is not dependent upon their wit, but upon natural impulse. Therefore it is not their function to overcome illusion in any sense of the word.
One of the most striking thoughts when we meditate upon this, is to discover what in our lives is due to the action of maya, of illusion. We are staggered by the extent to which this illusory power of nature works upon us: how it hides from us the truth about ourselves, about the universe, about others; and therefore it behooves us to enquire a little as to how we may recognise when our consciousness is being obscured by one or other of the possible forms of illusion.
Now the great devotional book called the Bhagavad-Gita is, I suppose, one of the greatest scriptures that the world knows of: a very ancient book giving to us the matchless wisdom and knowledge about the nature of man, given in the words of a divine incarnation, who, as you know, was called Krishna. In the sixteenth Discourse he gives to us a list of the different qualities that you find in human beings, when the various states of illusion or their absence are operative. We cannot fail to profit from the teaching of the Bhagavad-Gita:
Fearlessness, sincerity, assiduity in devotion, generosity, self-restraint, piety, and alms-giving, study, mortification, and rectitude; harmlessness, veracity, and freedom from anger, resignation, equanimity, and not speaking of the faults of others, universal compassion, modesty, and mildness; patience, power, fortitude, and purity, discretion, dignity, unrevengefulness, and freedom from conceit — these are the marks of him whose virtues are of a godlike character, O son of Bharata.
A wonderful collection of qualities. It is a marvelous book for calming the mind, and for removing the veil that hides our vision from the truth. You pick up the Gita, and it causes the lamp of true knowledge within you to burn more brightly. At one time these qualities are present in us, and then each one of us will find certain things of which we can say, "Yes, I have experienced this at times," and we shall know that in the light of the teaching of the Gita there is a certain spiritual quality working; and you will find at other times when the illusion is there, when the personality is blotting out the light, that you show qualities of a different kind:
Those, O son of Pritha, who are born with demoniacal dispositions are marked by hypocrisy, pride, anger, presumption, harshness of speech, and ignorance. The destiny of those whose attributes are godlike is final liberation, while those of demoniacal dispositions, born to the Asuras' lot is continued bondage to mortal birth; grieve not, O son of Pandu, for thou art born with the divine destiny. There are two kinds of natures in beings in this world, that which is godlike, and the other which is demoniacal; the godlike hath been fully declared, hear now from me, O son of Pritha, what the demoniacal is.
Those who are born with the demoniacal disposition — of the nature of the Asuras — know not the nature of action nor of cessation from action, they know not purity nor right behavior, they possess no truthfulness. They deny that the universe has any truth in it, saying it is not governed by law, declaring that it hath no spirit; they say creatures are produced alone through the union of the sexes, and that all is for enjoyment only. Maintaining this view, their souls being ruined, their minds contracted, with natures perverted, enemies of the world, they are born to destroy. They indulge insatiable desires, are full of hypocrisy, fast-fixed in false beliefs through their illusions. They indulge in unlimited reflections which end only in annihilation, convinced until death that the enjoyment of the objects of their desires is the supreme good. Fastbound by the hundred cords of desire, prone to lust and anger, they seek by injustice and the accumulation of wealth for the gratification of their own lusts and appetites. 'This today hath been acquired by me, and that object of my heart I shall obtain; this wealth I have, and that also shall be mine. This foe have I already slain, and others will I forthwith vanquish; I am the lord, I am powerful, and I am happy. I am rich and with precedence among men; where is there another like unto me? I shall make sacrifices, give alms, and enjoy.' In this manner do those speak who are deluded. Confounded by all manner of desires, entangled in the net of illusion, firmly attached to the gratification of their desires, they descend into hell. Esteeming themselves very highly, self-willed, full of pride and ever in pursuit of riches, they perform worship with hypocrisy and not even according to ritual, but only for outward show. Indulging in pride, selfishness, ostentation, power, lust, and anger, they detest me who am in their bodies and in the bodies of others. Wherefore I continually hurl these cruel haters, the lowest of men, into wombs of an infernal nature in this world of rebirth. And they being doomed to those infernal wombs, more and more deluded in each succeeding rebirth, never come to me, O son of Kunti, but go at length to the lowest region.
The gates of hell are three — desire, anger, covetousness, which destroy the soul; wherefore one should abandon them. Being free from these three gates of hell, O son of Kunti, a man worketh for the salvation of his soul, and thus proceeds to the highest path. He who abandoneth the ordinances of the Scriptures to follow the dictates of his own desires, attaineth neither perfection nor happiness nor the highest path. Therefore, in deciding what is fit and what unfit to be done, thou shouldst perform actions on earth with a knowledge of what is declared in Holy Writ.
This is a very healthful way — to me at least — of finding out how to destroy illusion. I would like to say just this: that when we find that any of these lower qualities begin to become active in our consciousness, there is no other way of dealing with them except somehow by an effort of will, an endeavor to rise in consciousness into the higher part of our being; and in that state of consciousness the illusory aspects of personality cease, they lose their power, and the man is able to regain balance, calm, peace. The supreme guide, life itself, is always providing opportunities to test us. Some concatenation of circumstances arises, and, as you know, an individual may go along life's pathway, quietly, serenely, thinking that everything is lovely in the garden; and then some person comes along who is so constituted that he touches a certain button, a certain knob in the psychological constitution, and some personal ego within, of which there are many by the way, reacts, and plays its tune, pleasant or unpleasant — a kind of gramophone record that plays over and over again the same tune. It will be found, after we observe ourselves closely, that similar stimuli tend to produce these similar recurrent phases, good, bad and indifferent, which proves to us that part of our illusion is caused by the mechanical nature of our being. In other words that it is not perfectly under the control of the real part of us. The inner individual is not master of its vehicles of consciousness that we call the personality and through which it expresses itself. We do all sorts of things in a most mechanical way, and it is our reactions to sudden stimuli through various circumstances in life that teach us perhaps the greatest lessons, because amongst spiritually-minded people at least, among all seekers after truth, there is the sincere desire to live in the light of one's Higher being, and the great misery and unhappiness of at times doing quite the opposite. This is the kind of illusion that we must seek out the means of eradicating, and one of the best ways of all, I believe, is a constant and daily steady reading of such a book as the Bhagavad-Gita. You have to be very discriminating in the kind of book or scripture that you rely upon to give you that spiritual sustenance without which man cannot live — spiritually speaking, especially in this striving, material, difficult world that we have to live in.
Day by day we must see to it that we give ourselves five or ten minutes — if only that — for spiritual sustenance. The first thing in the morning, if possible, before another thought enters your consciousness, if you spend a few minutes of quiet reflexion, self-examination, aspiration towards the higher part of your being, help does come in a very strange way that has to be experienced in order to realize it.
There at any rate are a few thoughts upon this question of illusion, so now I will leave it to you to raise other questions if you wish.
QUESTION: Among that list of divine qualities that you read in the sixteenth Discourse of the Bhagavad-Gita, is one that I think must be a mistranslation. I do not think that one understands it as a divine quality — and that is mortification.
ANSWER: Many questions like that crop up in the study of the Bhagavad-Gita. What does it mean? The questioner suggests that it is a mistranslation, but I think it is only a matter of understanding what is meant by mortification. I think that I cannot do better than find out what Krishna has to say about this subject of mortification, because it is really very interesting:
Honoring the gods, the brahmans, the teachers, and the wise, purity, rectitude, chastity, and harmlessness are called mortification of the body. Gentle speech which causes no anxiety, which is truthful and friendly, and diligence in the reading of the Scriptures, are said to be austerities of speech. Serenity of mind, mildness of temper, silence, self-restraint, absolute straightforwardness of conduct, are called mortification of the mind. This threefold mortification or austerity practised with supreme faith and by those who long not for a reward is of the sattva quality.
QUESTION: Is not truth even to this day indefinable?
ANSWER: I think it is probably truly so, because in what terms are you going to define truth? You may turn round to me and say, "Do you think that you said anything that is true tonight?" And I say, "Well, at least I hope that it may be what you might call relative truth." I do not believe that any attempt to expound philosophically ideas of Ancient Wisdom, which after all are an attempt to state some aspects of truth, can be perfectly performed by any one who is not perfect. How can it be so? So you must have a Mahatma or Divine Being who can perfectly express truth in human language, and even then it will not be so much the words that he utters, but that which his whole being does to your consciousness — raising it to that point where it is able to perceive truth.
Now can we give or have any kind of conception of what a Theosophist means by truth? I can only tell you the way I reason about it and it is simply this: that truth is the reality, the facts of Nature where it operates in the particular sphere that you are considering. What you call truth has to reflect perfectly the workings of that department of Nature that you are studying. So I think the questioner is quite right — it is impossible to define truth. It exists perfectly at the level of Universal Mind. If we want to perceive truth we have to rise into our spiritual being, where we are not subjected to the distortion of the brain-mind.
QUESTION: It is possible to get into a dangerous state when we get out of our body and feel that everything is illusion?
ANSWER: I think that the best advice in such a case, assuming that we are talking to a person who is interested in these matters, is to hand him a copy of The Voice of the Silence, underlining the seven Paramitas — that is the Buddhistic qualities of perfection. In other words there are certain rather short ethical precepts, concentration upon which we are told will have a very beneficial effect upon the mind. Now that may sound trite, but nevertheless really something like that is the only thing to do, because if you get into a state of complete confusion of that kind then you have lost your moorings, your anchor, you have not got hold of your rudder, and you have to do something about it; and the surest thing is to attempt to concentrate upon and practise the Paramitas, and look for some healthy, religious or philosophical literature that will be of benefit.
QUESTION: In the demoniacal qualities in the sixteenth Discourse it stated that the personality, I presume life after life, seemed to sink lower and lower each life. Now is that a fact? Does not karmic action make it so very unpleasant for the personality that automatically this sinking lower and lower is checked?
ANSWER: In the ordinary case of evolution — Yes. That is to say that the average human being who does not live marvelously well, but not too badly — he has his moments when he jumps off the deep end, and it is these things that he will be sorry for afterwards. Well, if the balance of his karmic memory gets below a certain point, he is going to add and add to these actions of a personal character, and if that goes on, then he begins to slip down the scale life after life. But Nature will react against him: he will have scored karmic penalties which are designed by merciful Nature to wake him up, and then the natural impulse of evolution will gradually straighten things out. Nevertheless the slip down the decline mentioned in the Gita is, we believe, a possibility in Nature. We do not need to dwell upon it, but there it is.
QUESTION: If all the people connected with such a one were to help him, could not the fall be avoided or checked?
ANSWER: I think that is an important question because we must all have the experience in life of being associated in our own families perhaps or elsewhere amongst our human relationships, with someone who is finding the battle of life too much, one who seems to be losing in that battle of life. Now when the questioner asks if those associated with that person can do anything to help, I venture to suggest, that instead of pointing out to that individual all day and every day just exactly what one thought of him, even to the point — what shall I say? — of lowering one's self-respect by the constant criticism — instead of doing that, let him keep his own consciousness on as high a level as he knows how to do, including this individual within his spiritual meditation. This has a wonderful effect. I have seen it work over and over and over again, and I have seen the terribly cruel and destructive effect of criticism. It is a strange fact, you know, that Brother Judge pointed out in a little book called The Epitome of Theosophy: that in fixing your thought in condemnation (and the stronger the hatred that goes with it, the more important and lasting the effect) you mix yourself with the quality in the other person that you hate, and you pretty soon begin to express that quality. It comes back to you. So I believe that one of the most important things you can do is to keep your own consciousness up and include the sufferer in your spiritual meditation.